In convening the Senate for the 113th Congress, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday called for the House to advance more bills that have already cleared the Senate.
Reid said that while the previous Congress had seen some important efforts at bipartisan legislation, it had been difficult to see many bills that cleared the Senate with bipartisan votes fail to even get a vote on the floor of the Republican-controlled House.
"The recent effort to avert the fiscal cliff was an example of both the divisions and the collaborations that mark this moment in history," Reid said on the Senate floor. "Although the process of resolving some of the fiscal issues facing this country was a difficult and protracted one, in the end our two parties came together to protect America's middle class. That is something of which we can all be proud."
He added, "Unfortunately, our political differences prevented us from accomplishing as much as we all hoped during the 112th Congress."
There was a lengthy list of bills, from a transportation bill to a patent reform bill to efforts at keeping taxes from increasing on most Americans that passed the Senate but were never considered in the House, Reid said.
"Not a single piece of that legislation became law without the votes of both Democrats and Republicans," Reid said. "All those legislative initiatives were bipartisan. Unfortunately, many other worthy measures that passed the Senate with strong, bipartisan support then languished, awaiting action by the House of Representatives."
He added, "In the 113th Congress, it will be incumbent upon the House Republican leadership to allow bipartisan bills passed by the Senate to come to a vote before the full House of Representatives -not before the Republican members only, but before Democrats and Republicans, all 435 of them. Too many good pieces of legislation have died over the last two years because House Republican leaders insist on passing legislation with a majority of the Majority, that is, only Republicans."
Reid said that bills to reform the postal service, extend the Violence Against Women Act and the farm bill were all examples of legislative efforts that cleared the Senate but were not brought to the floor by House Leaders.
Referring to a vote to enact a stopgap measure to allow the country to avoid the worst of the "fiscal cliff" passed on Jan. 1, Reid said that Democrats in the House can be relied on to help pass truly bipartisan bills.
"As Speaker Boehner saw on New Year's Day, when he allows every member of the House to vote - and not only the Republican members of the House to vote - Congress can enact bills into laws," Reid said. "No major legislation can pass the Senate without the votes of both Democrats and Republicans."
He added, "During the 113th Congress, the Speaker should strive to make that the rule in the House of Representatives, as well."
Reid also raised the prospect that the new Senate would address filibuster reform, which he contended had been at the heart of the failure to act on many bills during the last Congress.
But, he said, he would not push reform efforts too quickly.
"We will reserve the right of all Senators to propose changes to the Senate rules. And we will explicitly not acquiesce in the carrying over of all the rules from the last Congress," Reid said. "It is my intention that the Senate will recess today, rather than adjourn, to continue the same legislative day, and allow this important rules discussion to continue later this month."
He added, "I am confident the Republican leader and I can come to an agreement that allows the Senate to work more efficiently."
By recessing rather than adjourning for the legislative start of the new Congress, Reid leaves open the possibility that changes to Senate rules - including the 60 vote requirement to block a filibuster - could be changed by a simple majority vote instead of the 60 votes generally required under previous rules.
by RTT Staff Writer
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